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In Baku, Eurovision Supervisor Talks Of Human Rights, Hopes For Event

The recently unveiled logo for Eurovision 2012
The recently unveiled logo for Eurovision 2012
By RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service
Preparations for the 57th Eurovision Song Contest have reached a fever pitch in the Azerbaijani capital, Baku.

Finishing touches are being put on the venue, local streets are undergoing a scrupulous cleanup, and the city has become the focus of numerous pop songs celebrating its charms.

Eurovision's Sietse Bakker: "A very modern representation"Eurovision's Sietse Bakker: "A very modern representation"
Eurovision's Sietse Bakker: "A very modern representation"
Eurovision's Sietse Bakker: "A very modern representation"
Azerbaijan has also crossed a critical milestone in the run-up to its hosting of the contest. In a high-wattage ceremony on January 25, Baku Mayor Hajibala Abutalibov accepted the symbolic key to the contest from last year's host, his Duesseldorf counterpart, Dirk Elsbers.

The country also unveiled the logo for this year's contest -- a flaming red flower accompanied by the slogan "Light Your Fire!"

Sietse Bakker, the event supervisor for the Eurovision competition who was in Baku for the unveiling, said the logo is "absolutely beautiful."

"I think this is a very modern representation of the Eurovision Song Contest," Bakker said. "And I actually think this may be the best theme arc, and the best slogan, that we've ever had for Eurovision."

New Arena, Visa Requirements

There is more to Azerbaijan's Eurovision requirements than logos and keys.

The design of Baku's Crystal Hall, the venue for Eurovision 2012The design of Baku's Crystal Hall, the venue for Eurovision 2012
The design of Baku's Crystal Hall, the venue for Eurovision 2012
The design of Baku's Crystal Hall, the venue for Eurovision 2012
Bakker and other Eurovision authorities have also given the nod to the German-built Crystal Hall, the massive, 23,000-seat arena that will serve as the venue for the 43-country extravaganza. (Azerbaijan's historic neighbor-antagonist, Armenia, is among the contestants, Bakker said.)

And the Azerbaijani government has taken steps to streamline visa requirements in a bid to tempt more Eurovision fans to make the trip to their country. Bakker said the changes were due to be announced in a matter of weeks.

Ticket prices for the event also remain undecided. Such variables, together with visa and hotel logistics, may affect how many foreign Eurovision fans travel to Baku. Bakker said, however, that he is confident that "thousands" of people will travel to Azerbaijan for the event.

Oil-rich Azerbaijan is rumored to be spending upward of $1 billion on massive construction projects and PR campaigns ahead of the contest, which is seen as a golden opportunity to boost the country's standing on the world stage.

Azerbaijani President Ilham AliyevAzerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev
Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev
Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev
Bakker said talks are ongoing on the song contest's budget, which must be formally approved by Eurovision authorities. But he said lavish projects like the Crystal Hall are not considered a Eurovision-related expense.

"The construction work that is going on in Baku, including the construction of the Crystal Hall, is part of a much greater plan of improvement of the city, which is not connected at all to the Eurovision Song Contest," Bakker said.

Political Aspects

Baku's high-profile role as Eurovision host has also raised questions about its human rights record, particularly President Ilham Aliyev's continuing crackdown on the media and public protests.

Bakker said Eurovision organizers "do not connect the contest to any political goals." But he hopes the international attention focused on Azerbaijan in the coming months will help local NGOs and journalists gain a stronger foothold at home.

"This is an opportunity for the people of Azerbaijan to show their country to the rest of Europe," Bakker said. "And if any media attention focused on Azerbaijani will contribute to improvements in Azerbaijan, that is, of course, very welcome. But that initiative is with the media, not with us."

written by Daisy Sindelar, based on reporting by Kenan Aliyev
This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: Sey from: World
January 27, 2012 16:00
Azerbaijan can spend $1 billion in massive construction projects for making Baku nice to Europeans, but it can find money anywhere to give its displaced population in Baku a better place to live than an abandoned factory (

In Response

by: Emin from: from the same world
January 31, 2012 05:09
With all due respect, I would like to bring to your attention that your comments do represent the reality on the ground when it comes to the Azerbaijanian refugess and is lacking a coherent reference. The link that you provided only presents the life one family living in the ruins of the old factory and do not represent the situation of the close 1 million refugee population of Azerbaijan. For your, knowledge Mr. Sey Azerbaijan has conducted multiple government programs in order to fix the refugees housing problems. With the framework of this programs number of new cities and towns has been established from the scratch and the refugee families has placed into this housing units. I am not trying to demonstrate the Azerbaijan as a perfect state. I am sure there are still people refugees and even non-refugees who have housing problems or other problems related with poverty, however the problems like that cant be fixed overnight and it takes time and lots of resources. I have traveled all over the US and 80% countries in EU, the big number of population with low socio-economic level have the same way housing problems in this countries. You do criticize Azerbaijan for wasting 1 bl on lavish Eurovision ceremony but you wont criticize US for spending 600 bl on the military budget, when it has a big number of population living under poverty line with people being thrown out of their homes (I hope rfe won`t ban my comments because of the US analogy).
In Response

by: Vicky from: Switzerland
February 04, 2012 11:46
Here is how it is when irresponsible and unprofessional journalists base their reports on rumors rather than facts.
If you are not aware, please be informed that for several years in Azerbaijan is realized the program of housing for refugees in rural and urban areas. If some of the refugees have not received a new home yet, it doesn't mean that nothing is done. In addition the photos that you have led a reference were made in 2010 (Published 22 March 2010). Probably these people already have a new home.
Clicking on the links below you can see the houses built for refugees.

by: Kaizer from: Holland
January 28, 2012 12:04
What a shame. How RFE?RL can choose such a wording- historic neighbor-antagonist Armenia. You can't label anybody or any country, this is low proffesionalism and you are a human rights radiostation!!!
In Response

by: Camel Anaturk from: Kurdistan
January 28, 2012 22:56
You`re bloody right Wilhelm,Armenia doesnt have a historic neighbour called azeristan-armenian history dates back some 25 centuries,the illegally occupied breakaway form the USSR some call azerbaybaydjan was artificially created in the kgb dens of the greatest human lover in history-good old uncle Joe.The Pink Floyd sing in one of their songs about the `Daisy chains and laughs and this is what mrs.Sindelar has done.Now on the subject:The `Euro`vision specialist in song and dance may talk for days and days about human rights in the Chenghiz khan ruled serfdom of the biggest humans trafficker in the region-the son of glorious soviet kgb general,who has killed thousands of azeri dissidents and sent other thousands for reeducation in Sunny Siberia-and all this out of utmost concern for their human rights.So the bloody european better shut up and leave the human rights talking to the specialists.She doesnt know how many peoples` homes for destroyed to make place for Potemkin styled palaces and the pittance their owners got for their property.The important thing is that Ali Babaly Ilham will get the chance to show the world he is the greatest singer and belly dancer in the world,too.We also know who is the second best-Our lady in the skies beautiful Merybanban and we are all scratching our heads who will be appointed to win the third place.Most punters speculate it will be the just as beautiful Sara Tehiran from Baki-our present day Layla if she can only find her Madjlun,and I hope he wont turn out to be an armenian.Now,all the bids for places from fourth to 99th are wide open and will be won on a first-come with money talks azeri walks basis.Long live azebaybaydjan-the world`s oldest and biggest and best EuropeanDemockracy-Death to the enemies of Allahtan Ilhan!!!
In Response

by: Anonymous
January 30, 2012 06:43
hey qro kurdo. whats your matter with people. i think you are living in europe or america. and insult everything because you ran away from your nation, because you are shy from your Kurdish people. You shy because you are a part of them.

Those Kurds, they are not one nation, y chromosome genetic results shows they are mixed as Turks. Very many nations called with the name "Turk", and "Kurd". They are mixed as mixed fruit juice. So called "Turks" have money and they live in west. But so called "Kurds" are left in the darkness of East. "Agha" or "Begs" Kurdish feodals, merciless to ignorant poor Kurdish people. They called those poeple "Qro", the Kurdo. "Camel Anaturk" is a simple shy Kurd, hate from herself, and hate every humen organisation. Your problem can solve only in mental hospital Camel. Nationalism is old uncle Hitler's terrible song, killed 15 million humen in the world.
In Response

by: Kurdunanasina from: cell in the Imreli Island
January 31, 2012 04:44
I am not going to touch up on your geniune comments on the history. Obviously, from what you wrote I can clearly see that you are the greatest historian of the greatest Kurdish nations. All the gotoboklu peshmerges on the Anatolian mountains sip from the mountains of knowledge. I truely congradulate you and your Kurdos for truely figuring everything out about Azerbaijnian history. You even got the top secret KGB files Kremlin dongens. "Operation Azerbaijan" ohhhh i gotta love this kurdo conspiracy.

Anyways, great historian of all times, brave sun of the Kurdos nation from the country "Cantfinditonthemap" Mr Cemal Anakurd aga you should direct your much appreciated visdom for your great nation and leave Azerbaijan alone.

by: Vicky from: Switzerland
February 04, 2012 11:07
The author writes that "Azerbaijan is rumored to be spending upward of $1 billion on Eurovision Song Contest". My question is: since when articles of professional journalists are based on rumors and not facts? Or maybe for Radio Liberty articles are written by not professional journalists but students? I would like to ask you to be extremely careful when writing articles. Distorted information carried on by media spoil the image and reputation of the author and resources spreading this information.

by: Natalie from: Germany
February 04, 2012 12:55
Where does the amount of $1.000.000 come from? It’s a fiction of journalists. It’s not true.

by: Nizami from: Baku
February 13, 2012 00:25
This so called Eurovision is another entertainment event of Aliyev's clan that wastes Azerbaijan's wealth as if its their private property.

Azeri's have nothing to gain from it except assimilation into hedonistic culture of the West. There are over a million Azeri's in Moscow, most of them are doing nasty jobs for minimal pay, spend money for job creation.

In Response

by: Natalie from: Germany
February 14, 2012 08:24
If you don’t’ like it, then don’t go to Eurovision. The contest will lose nothing, if you don’t participate there.

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